Monster Energy Honda Team : Van Beveren masters the 48 Hour Chrono for his first stage victory at this year’s Dakar Rally

Monster Energy Honda Team’s Adrien Van Beveren put in a commanding performance across two days of rallying in Saudi Arabia’s Empty Quarter with victory on an enormous stage six.

It was a stage that would turn things on its head in this vast area of desert that with 650,000 km2 of dunes is larger than France but giving staggering endless vistas for a spectacular place for the riders to attack. No stranger to sand, Van Beveren used his extensive Le Touquet experience to carve out a narrow lead over teammate Ricky Brabec, getting as far as bivouac F after 513 km of rallying when the clock stopped at 4pm yesterday.

On a stage that demanded so much from the riders physically, basic food rations, no assistance, no phones and a night on the sand in a tent also added to their depleted energy levels. However, with just 112km across the dunes remaining for Van Beveren, Brabec and José Ignacio Cornejo at 7am today, the Frenchman cemented his position at the top of the timesheets as he clawed back a huge amount of time in the overall standings. Going into the 48h Chrono he had a deficit of nearly twenty minutes and this has now reduced to just over nine as he now starts the second week as one of the favourites for victory.

With lower average speeds across the epic dunes, the riders had one goal and that was to get to the end of this 626km stage back at Shubaytah without making any mistakes. It was one thing to keep track of the road book and not fall off, but soft sand would also affect fuel consumption too so conserving it would also add an extra element to the already onerous stage. Pablo Quintanilla fell victim to the latter as he was just ten kilometres short of the first refuelling point when his Honda CRF450 RALLY ground to a halt. Despite managing to get some fuel he finished in twelfth, nearly two hours behind Van Beveren and has now fallen down to eleventh in the overall standings. His shot at a podium has diminished but the Chilean remains optimistic to add to his stage victory tally at this edition.

A fan of the whole 48 Hour Chrono experience, it was a solid third place finish for a sleep deprived Ricky Brabec, as it now sees him in the overall lead with just a 51 second gap to Hero Motorsports Team Rally’s Ross Branch as he continues to do battle with the Honda riders at the top of the standings.

José Ignacio Cornejo found his flow on the dunes catching up to stage-opener Joan Barreda early on and with roles reversed he drew upon his impressive navigation skills to complete the rest of the stage setting the tracks for the following riders. Although his ninth place finish has dropped him down to fourth overall the Chilean will benefit from a better start position for stage seven in two day’s time.

The rider with the most spectacular moustache in the bivouac, Skyler Howes, suffered a huge blow to his Dakar, just 39 km into yesterday’s proceedings he had to retire from the rally with a mechanical problem.

Once riders got to the finish a skeleton crew from the Monster Energy Honda Team were there to receive them before packing up their bikes to drive them to the next stage bivouac at Riyadh over 853 km away. The riders were spared such a long road trip and went to the Saudi Arabian capital by plane where they will reconvene with other team members before a much needed rest day tomorrow.

Ruben Faria – General Manager : « One of our goals was to get to the rest day with a good result from the 48 Hour Chrono stage. It was 100% dunes and really tough but we know that Adrien is a strong rider on this sort of terrain so it was a great result for him. Ricky finished in a really good position in third, which sets him up well for stage seven and although Nacho did ride over 400 km opening the stage, he did a good job to not lose too much time.
« We’re still in a strong position and will prepare ourselves for the following stages with one goal in mind, winning the 2024 Dakar Rally. »

Pablo Quintanilla #7 – Stage: 12th Overall: 11th : « Yesterday was a disastrous stage for me as I ran out of fuel just before the refuelling. At one point I thought I was out of the race because I tried to get fuel from other riders but everybody was on the limit too. I ended up waiting for around an hour and a half to get some fuel before I could restart. I tried to do my best but I lost so much time yesterday that unfortunately I also lost every chance to be at the front of the race.
« It’s a sad feeling when these things happen after you’ve been working so hard for this rally, but this is racing, anything can happen. I can continue though and so from here to the finish I want to enjoy the race, continue to give 100% and to end the Dakar in a good way. »

Ricky Brabec #9 – Stage: 3rd Overall: 1st : « There was a lot of time in the dunes but I didn’t mind that as the challenge of going for many hours and kilometres made it a lot of fun. Camping with the boys was a blast, we had a really good time last night although we didn’t get much sleep.
« The stage was 100% dunes but it was really cool and I hope they do something like this again.
« Rocks and open deserts are a bit better for me and with the dunes I really pushed but I also played it safe towards the end as I didn’t want to open stage seven. I’m in a good place going into next week, so let’s see what happens in the next six days. »

Skyler Howes #10 – Stage: DNF : « I’m gutted to have to exit the rally early. After a less than ideal start I was looking forward to the chrono stage and the second week to claw back the time that I lost in the first couple of days.
« The issue that took me out is nobody’s fault, not mine, mechanics or the team. When you’re pushing at the maximum level for this many days, luck has a big part to play and yesterday I drew the short stick. Sometimes this happens in racing and all we can do is learn from it.
« Now I’m looking forward to the year ahead and focusing on being better. Failure and adversity can be the best teacher, one I’m familiar with. »

José Ignacio ‘Nacho’ Cornejo #11 – Stage: 9th Overall: 4th : « I’m pleased with where I finished as the idea was to try and minimise the time lost for opening most of the stage. I pushed as hard as I could for two days so I’m happy with my effort.
« There’s still one more full week to go so we will keep doing what we’re doing, giving our best stage by stage. There are tricky days coming up but I’ll be in a good starting position for stage seven on Sunday. »

Adrien Van Beveren #42 – Stage: 1st Overall: 3rd : « This stage was really important for me, since we’d known what it would entail I knew that I could do well here in the dunes and make a difference. I went fast at the beginning but emptied the first fuel tank really early so I had to change my riding style and make it smoother to try to improve my fuel economy. I got into a good rhythm and to get the win was nice.
« I’m glad I did the 48 Hour Chrono, it was a good experience to tackle this long stage in the dunes. Yesterday we all arrived completely destroyed, it was really physical but I’m glad that we had this opportunity. »

RallyGP Results – Stage 6
1. Van Beveren Adrien – FRA – Monster Energy Honda Team, 07:57:29
2. Price Toby – USA – Red Bull KTM Rally Factory , +4:13
3. Brabec Ricky – USA Monster Energy Honda Team, +5:02
4. Sanders Daniel – AUS – Gas Gas Factory Team, +6:55
5. Evan Branch Ross – BWA – Hero Motorsports Team Rally, +9:40
6. Benavides Luciano – ARG – Husqvarna Factory Racing, +10:39
7. Benavides Kevin – ARG – Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team, +16:05
8. Svitko Stefan – SLO – Slovnaft Rally Team, +21:19
9. Cornejo José Ignacio « Nacho » – CHI – Monster Energy Honda Team, +21:49
10. Michek Martin – CZE – Orion Moto Racing Group, +01:03:21…
12. Quintanilla Pablo – CHI – Monster Energy Honda Team, +01:56:43…

Rider Standings
RallyGP Provisional Standings after Stage 6
1. Brabec Ricky – USA – Monster Energy Honda Team, 27:11:21
2. Evan Branch Ross – BWA – Hero Motorsports Team Rally, +0:51
3. Van Beveren Adrien – FRA – Monster Energy Honda Team, +9:21
4. Cornejo José Ignacio ‘Nacho’ – CHI – Monster Energy Honda Team, +14:14
5. Price Toby – AUS – Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team, +27:00
6. Benavides Kevin – ARG – Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team, +28:33
7. Sanders Daniel – AUS – Gas Gas Factory Team, +35:50
8. Benavides Luciano – ARG – Husqvarna Factory Racing, +47:26
9. Svitko Stefan – SLO – Slovnaft Rally Team, +01:07:42
10. Michek Martin – CZE – Orion Moto Racing Group, +01:34:24
11. Quintanilla Pablo – CHI – Monster Energy Honda Team, +02:14:41…